The best things in life come in small packages.... I mean small bites.
After bowling us over completely with his “WinterMenu”, Chef Gurpreet Singh and his team at Punjab Grill have come up with another novel concept of a desi “Chakhna” Menu. Inspired by the concept of Spanish Tapas or little bites served in small plates with drinks, Chef Gurpreet has outdone himself this time around too. He has given his own sweet twist to this Indian Tapas Menu by reintroducing some old favorites, some of which at least I had long forgotten and was delighted to see them again.
How many of you remember, Rimzim, a spicy masala drink that used to be available back in the 80’s or the Fryums, the yellow tube like snacks which I remember putting on our fingers, faking long nails with them and then relishing them one by one. The food certainly brought back a rush of memories, a delicious trip down memory lane. When we asked Chef Gurpreet how he managed to get hold of Rim Zim, as it is nowhere to be seen in the market, he told us how on a trip to Tilak Nagar he spotted a seller selling the bottles outside a small shop. He came back and searched the net and was lucky to find a seller. As it is I believe Coca Cola is planning to reintroduce Rimzim drink in the market soon.
'Just looking at the presentation of each dish you could make out the effort and thought that had gone into the planning and conceptualizing the menu, how every small detail had been paid attention to right from the drinks to the food menu– I think that is what makes it a complete experience at Punjab Grill.
Even a mundane thing like the paper in which the Ambrasari fish was served, to make it look more authentic, the actual 'Punjab Kesari' newspaper was printed on a butter paper . Also the serving mats placed before us had playing cards printed on them to give you a feel of a laid back, chilled out ambiance where one could get together with friends and relax over a few drinks and snacks.
These are the simple pleasures of life, the fun moments that we spend with our friends and family that give us real joy and make us feel alive. I think in the fast pace of life, this important aspect of life has somehow gone missing from our lives and we somehow have forgotten to enjoy the small moments which give us most pleasures in life.
This is what the Chakna menu is all about – to slow down, sit back, relax and enjoy some gup-shup with friends over a few drinks and snacks.
About the food - We started with the Classic Papad Peanut masala platter which had four colorful cones in a caddy, each having chana chor garam, masala peanuts, tiny onion pakodas and mixed nuts. These cones reminded you of the street vendor outside your college serving bhel and chanas in paper cones. I especially loved the onion pakodas which were crispy and just the perfect size to munch on while chatting with your friends.
There were a lot of intriguing cocktails on offer. I chose the Nikki Te Tikhi which was an interesting combination of Vodka, Khus syrup, lemon juice and 7up. It was served with a sliced chilly (hence tikhi) which added a nice zing to the taste. My husband had the Old Monk Rim Zim, which I felt he took more for the nostalgia for the drink Rim Zim.
I also had the Ganne Ka Juice Margarita, sugar cane juice with tequila, lemon juice, ginger and black salt and lots of shaved ice on top making it an heavenly combination for a ganne ka juice fan like me. Full marks to Band Baja Te Whisky for its innovativeness. A peg of whisky served in a glass with a baja, rather a bhopu inside sure did rouse our curiosity. It was fun to see the servers placing the glass on your table and playing the bhopu. There were a lot of people in the restaurant that day and an equal number of bhopus playing. But I am sure everyone was enjoying so much that no one would have minded. After all no amount of noise can deter a true Punjabi to enjoy his food and drink.
Next a cute little copper pot was placed before us and we were told that it was "Happy Holi Bhang". I was immediately interested as I had never tasted bhang in my life. It was delicious, with a refreshing flavor of pineapple.
Jheenga 'Chownk' Ki Tikki, Masala Mattra was a cutlet of potatoes and prawns. The tikki was served on a bed of spicy matar, which is a very popular street food till date. You go towards West Delhi or Sarojini Nagar, it is filled with vendors selling muttar kulchas and believe me they are delicious (even though you might like to tell your kids not to eat there).
Next came Kurkurri served in a small shot glass with imli chutney on the bottom. I absolutely love this snack. Spring rolls covered with crispy sevvayian and filled with olives and cheese and dipped in sweet tamarind chutney is enough to blow anyone's mind. This is one snack I just have to try at home which I am sure will be a big hit with the kids.
Next arrived the Ambrasari Machhi with Desi Aloo chips wrapped in the 'Punjab Kesari' newspaper. I think this is our desi take on the popular fish and chips dish. Fried fish is again a hot favorite with all Punjabis, my husband for one, who totally relished it. While he concentrated mostly on the fish, I enjoyed the desi local chips too. Full of spicy red chillies, I remember they were a treat when we were kids.
Tawa Chicken keema served with Fryums was an unusual but interesting combination of textures and flavors.
Mutton ki boti (in Istri) "Charcoal Press" was again an interesting concept. In a few restaurants I have seen food served in mini versions but never in an actual big iron. I wonder where they acquired such an quaint looking traditional charcoal press from? Apart from looking cute, the mutton was extremely well cooked. Though what was actually missing was some naan and tandoori roti with it.
Sunny side up tuk-tuk, khameeri roti too did not disppoint. It was like pita bread stuffed with boiled egg in a onion tomato masala was highly comforting and satisfying.
Masala Paneer Platter had pieces of paneer filled with grated coconut and chillies. I found it slightly bland and felt it could have done with a little more spices.
Anda Tawa rice was fried rice topped with a fried egg sunny side up. The rice was nicely seasoned and had lovely flavors from the egg.
The best was saved for the last. Mele di Chuski - a long wooden tray with chuski of five different flavours was a riot of colors. Served in interesting flavors of Gol guppe ka paani, Ambi Panna, Anar juice, Nimbu and Orange and mixed with Vodka they were just perfect to end our meal with.
Kudos to Chef Gurpreet and the whole team of Punjab Grill to come up with such an unique concept. I think this is where the strength of a great chef shines through when he is ready to experiment with something beyond the ordinary. The Chakna menu might have small bites but they surely do pack a powerful punch. If you too want to experience these incredible flavors and take a trip down memory lane, do go and visit Punjab Grill at Saket.